Manchester United are about to bid farewell, temporarily at least, to a fifth number seven in ten years when Alexis Sanchez joins Inter on a season-long loan before 2 September.
Sanchez arrived to much fanfare 18 months ago, but his Old Trafford career has been nothing short of a disaster, not least because he was a world class individual during his time at Arsenal.
After scoring 30 goals in all competitions in his final full season with the Gunners, Sanchez was supposed to be the explosive forward to take United towards finally challenging for the Premier League. Instead, he represented everything that was wrong with the club and is yet another flop to wear the number seven shirt made famous by George Best, Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona.
David Beckham was an iconic number seven in modern times, while Cristiano Ronaldo took on the mantle in 2003 and became the best player in the world while at United.
In the ten years since Ronaldo left for Real Madrid, no player has been able to live up to grandeur of the number seven shirt. Its five different wearers, including Sanchez, have scored a measly 14 Premier League goals between them in a decade – an average of 1.4 per season.
Another one bites the dust.— Jamie Spencer (@jamiespencer155) August 28, 2019
Premier League goals scored by Man Utd players wearing #7 since Cristiano Ronaldo left 10 years ago: 14
Michael Owen (2009-12): 5
Antonio Valencia (2012-13): 1
Angel Di Maria (2014-15): 3
Memphis Depay (2015-17): 2
Alexis Sanchez (2018-19): 3
Sanchez has managed only three Premier League goals in United colours, and only one of those was scored in his sole full season at Old Trafford in 2018/19.
Michael Owen was the shock first inhabitant of the number seven shirt after Ronaldo, joining as a free agent in 2009 following his release from Newcastle. The former Liverpool prodigy was more a pragmatic signing than anything else and did manage plenty of domestic cup and European goals – 12 in three seasons – but his final Premier League tally was just five.
Antonio Valencia was the next player to take the number seven shirt back in his days as a flying winger. The Ecuadorean had been named Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year for 2011/12 and had shown himself capable of chipping with goals despite being a traditional winger.
One goal in 30 Premier League appearances followed and Valencia returned to his old 25 shirt.
The number seven shirt lay vacant for a season waiting for its next wearer, with Angel Di Maria taking it on when he arrived in a then club record £59m transfer from Real Madrid. But the Argentine’s blistering start was short lived and he scored only three league goals.
Memphis Depay then came to United in the summer of 2015 off the back of scoring 22 Eredivisie goals for PSV Eindhoven. Nobody fairly expected him to repeat that straight off the bat in the Premier League, but the Dutch starlet badly underwhelmed and got just two.
He spent another half season on the fringes after Jose Mourinho took over, but was sold to Lyon in January 2017, where he promptly rediscovered his form of old.
One number seven being a flop is bad luck, two is worse. But three? Four? Five?
How long will it be before someone can break the ‘curse’ of United’s number seven shirt?